As a gift officer meeting with donors and supporters, you face a great number of scenarios within different stages of the major giving process. For each stage, you need effective questions at the ready so you can keep the process moving forward, and in a way that benefits both you and the donor.
So what makes a question effective?
It must be authentic. It must be relevant to the current state of the conversation and the relationship. And it must help the donor advance their hero story. This is how we build trust and at the same time, help the donor connect their identity to the act of giving a transformative gift.
Fundraising impact questions help advance both of these goals.
National Association of Charitable Gift Planners Hall of Fame researcher Dr. Russell James likes to call these ‘global victory questions.’
Some questions help a donor discover their identity as it relates to giving. Other types of questions achieve other goals.
Fundraising impact questions – or global victory questions – achieve two goals, one for the donor and one for the gift officer.
First, these questions help the donor define victory. And not just any victory. Feeding hungry kids is a victory. But if the donor cares more about providing mentorship to troubled teens, then feeding kids won’t be a meaningful victory to them.
The main purpose of fundraising impact questions is to help the donor define for themselves what matters most to them, and that they can influence through giving.
What could they do with their wealth that would produce great personal meaning in their lives? What could they do that would deliver great satisfaction, every time they are reminded of it?
Next, fundraising impact questions help you as the gift officer – playing the role of the sage in the life of the supporter – to better understand the passions, desires, and longings that live inside the heart of each person you meet with. Every person, and every desire, will be different.
You need to know what matters most to each supporter in terms of what their money can accomplish. What they care about. What inspires them. What drives them. What brings them to tears just at the thought of it. Global victory questions enable you to access these parts of their lives.
Let’s take a look at a few global victory questions recommended by Dr. James.
But first, it’s worth noting that this is just a small sampling of impact questions. In our major gifts fundraising eCourse Donor Story: Epic Fundraising, based on Dr. James’ lifetime of research into major gifts and planned giving, you’ll get access to hundreds more questions for many situations in the major gifts fundraising process. Learn more about the most career-transforming course you (and your team) will ever take.
Here are a few samples from Dr. James:
These are pretty general questions, which is great because that makes them easy to remember. It also means you can use them with pretty much any donor prospect.
Notice how you can use these to talk about the big global stage, or about the smaller stage in your community. You can tailor these questions to fit the context of your nonprofit organization’s mission.
For example, you can change the first question to:
Here’s another set of global victory questions that take a different approach:
That set of questions is a bit more personal, but they are still very open-ended. The donor’s first response might not relate to a major part of your charity’s mission. And that’s okay. You can extend the conversation and steer it toward the impact the donor can have in ways your organization can deliver.
Or, you can try a more specific question that is still open-ended, such as:
Different questions will be more effective for different donors, and based on the context and mission of your organization. That’s why you need a variety of fundraising impact questions to choose from. But the goal of all of them to is to attach personal, meaningful significance to each donor’s decision to give a transformational gift.
After bringing up the idea of a meaningful victory for the donor, you need to move the conversation forward. Sometimes this means simply getting the donor to keep talking. Help them do some self-reflection and self-discovery. Help them figure out why the things they said mean so much to them. Help connect their desires with their personal story.
You can move this process forward very effectively with a few simple follow-up questions.
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